Magic Johnson was in Oklahoma City on Monday night serving as the keynote speaker at the ninth annual Champions of Health gala at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
About half way through his speech, Johnson fielded questions submitted from the audience. To no one’s surprise, the first question for the Lakers legend was whether the Thunder or the Lakers would win it all in 2013.
Unlike many, Magic hasn’t penciled in the Lakers for this year’s title. He said the Thunder still has the edge and the Lakers have work to do to take it from OKC.
I would say that the Lakers have to beat the Thunder. The Thunder has something over the Lakers that the Lakers don’t have right now and that’s being a team. They’ve done it before. And the Lakers, as they are assembled, have not played with each other. And that’s going to be the goal of the Lakers. Can they become a team? When the chips are down, one thing that’s great about the Thunder is they know where they’re going for a shot. ‘I’m going to look for Kevin (Durant) first.’ Then Russell (Westbrook) and James (Harden) decides who has it going and then they’ll look for their shot. I’m talking about in the last two minutes. Two minutes and down, when the game is in the balance. They have a sense of knowing each other.”
The national analysts that haven’t already crowned the Lakers share Johnson’s wait-and-see approach with the new look Lakers. Now that Steve Nash and Dwight Howard have joined Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have three surefire Hall of Famers, and quite possibly a fourth in Pau Gasol, in their starting lineup. But there are plenty of questions about how those playing styles and personalities will mesh, how durable the aging bunch can be and whose hands will the ball be in down the stretch.
Magic, meanwhile, carried on about the Thunder in a complimentary way.
The one thing that I do appreciate and love about the Thunder is they play hard and they play well together and they play good defense. So I think that the Lakers have to get that. And the Thunder will show the Lakers that they’re not going away. They’re going to be here for a long time.”
Then there was this prediction from Magic.
I’m predicting that in three years — by 2016 — if the Thunder has not won a championship in three years then they have disappointed all of us, including myself. They’re supposed to win one in the next three years, whether that’s this season, next season or the year after that. They’re too good. I know the organization, that’s their goal. They have the talent. They have the coach. Everything is in place. Now it’s up to them to just get it done. No, it won’t be easy. But when you’ve got that talent, that’s the main thing, you have to get that talent and they have it, both inside and outside, they’re going to be good.”